Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg recalled from extinction the
greatest creatures our planet has ever known. "My interest
is in making a good movie that honors the existence of
dinosaurs," Spielberg said during filming of the 1993
biogenetics adventure, which would become the highest grossing
motion picture of all time and win three Academy Awards for its
ground-breaking visual and sound effects.
resurrect these ancient and powerful species who ruled the world
for 165 million years, the director and his team of special
effects wizards embarked on a three-year journey of discovery,
creating new technologies, transforming old ones and ushering
filmmaking into the 21st Century.
May of 1990, Universal Pictures obtained the galleys of
best-selling author Michael Crichton's upcoming book Jurassic
Park, and within a matter of hours, the studio was intently
negotiating to purchase the book on behalf of Steven Spielberg.
was one of those projects that was so obviously a Spielberg
film," recalls producer Kathleen Kennedy, who has closely
collaborated with the filmmaker for 18 years. "If you look
at the body of Stevens work, he is very often interested in the
theme of extraordinary things happening to ordinary
Crichton began adapting his book about a theme park for
genetically engineered dinosaurs into a feature-length
screenplay, Kennedy and Spielberg began to recruit the behind
the scenes team that would lay the creative foundation for
Jurassic Park. First on board was production designer Rick
Carter, who started work with a group of illustrators and
storyboard artists to translate Crichtons words into cinematic
next challenge was to find an all-star effects team that would
bring the dinosaurs to life. Stan Winston was contacted to
create the live action dinosaurs, with Phil Tippet serving as
dinosaur supervisor, Michael Lantieri handling special dinosaur
effects and Industrial Light & Magics Dennis Muren in charge
of full motion dinosaurs. Their achievements, individually and
collectively, had included box-office successes from Star Wars
to Teminator 2: Judgment Day, and they would eventually receive
an Oscar for best visual effects for Jurassic Park.
Neil and Laura Dern play Dr Alan Grant & Dr Ellie Sattler
Meanwhile, work continued on the screenplay, beginning with
Michael Crichtons first draft. Later, screenwriter David Koepp
was brought in on the project and shared screen credit with
was a relatively short process, capped by the signing of Richard
Attenborough (whose acclaimed work as a film director had
distracted him from acting since 1979) for the pivotal role as
Jurassic Park developer John Hammond. Rounding out the talented
ensemble cast were Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, a renowned
paleontologist who is asked to inspect the park; Laura Dern as
his colleague, Dr. Ellie Sattler; Jeff Goldblum as a brilliant
but eccentric mathematician whose chaos theory explains the
dangers inherent in the project; and Ariana Richards and Joseph
Mazzello as Hammond's young grandchildren.
order to tackle the scope and breadth of the project ahead,
Winston designated a group of teams that included both artists
and engineers. To give you an idea of each team's complex
responsibilities, meet "Team rex," which consisted of
12 operators performing widely varying functions. Constructed
from a frame of fiberglass and 3000 pounds of clay, the 20 foot
tall T-rex was covered with a durable yet delicate latex skin
and then painted by a team of artists who blended a rich palette
of colors to bring his body to life. The T-rex was then mounted
on a "dino-simulator," an imaginative mechanism
inspired by hydraulic technology and based on a traditional
six-axis flight simulator used by the military. On this
motion-based foundation, both the platform and the T-rex could
be actuated through a computer control board.
When "Jurassic Park" began principal photography on
the island of Kauai on August 24, 1992, it had been exactly two
years and one month since the start of pre-production. The lush
green resort-land near Lihue was an ideal setting for the
Jurassic Park exteriors, but after three weeks of filming under
the tropical sun, a real-life drama overshadowed the movie.
Iniki was fast approaching Kauai, and the crew was asked by the
hotel to pack their suitcases and fill their bathtubs with water
in case of future power and water shortages. Next, they were
instructed to pack a day bag and meet in the ballroom of the
hotel on the basement level.
9:00 a.m. the storm was headed straight for the island. Kathy
Kennedy recalls, "We started pulling all our supplies into
the ballroom, and the camera crew was quickly packing their
things in the trucks. But if you're going to be stranded with
anyone, be stranded with a movie crew," says Kennedy.
"We had generators for lights, and plenty of food and
water. We were self-sustaining because we moved around on
location all the time."
out in rows of chaise lounges on the ballroom floor, the cast
and crew heard the winds pick up at about 4:00 p.m. and rumble
by at almost 120 mph. "It sounded like a freight train
roaring past the building," recalls the producer.
water seeped into one end of the ballroom, the crew huddled on
the other side of the room. But at 7:30 p.m., Kennedy and Gary
Hymes, the stunt coordinator, stepped outside into silence.
"It was the eeriest thing I had ever seen," recalls
Kennedy. "Here we were that morning on a beautiful
tree-lined street adjacent to a golf course, and now virtually
every single tree had been flattened."
the company had scheduled one more day of filming, the sheer
force of Iniki literally struck all the sets. There was no power
or working phones on the island, so at dawn the next morning,
Kennedy jogged two miles to the airport to explore their
destruction in the airport was unbelievable," she recalls.
"All the windows were blown out in the terminals, and the
buildings were full of palms, trees, sand and water. Every
single helicopter had been tipped on its side."
to her relentless efforts among airport and military personnel
in Lihue, Kennedy was able to hitch a ride to Honolulu on a
Salvation Army plane and began organizing from a pay phone. Over
the next 24 hours, she not only coordinated the safe return of
the company, but also arranged for more than 20,000 pounds of
relief supplies to be transported from Honolulu and Los Angeles
its return to Los Angeles, "Jurassic Park" resumed
production at Universal Studios. Stage 24 had become the
industrial-size kitchen for Jurassic Park's Visitors Center and
it was being visited by two predatory Velociraptors. While
Winston's team manipulated every moving part of the full size
Raptor from head to tail, actors Ariana Richards and Joseph
Mazzello cowered in the corner, deep into their characters of
two young children who are trapped in their worst nightmare.
Goldblum plays Dr Ian Malcolm
there, the company packed up and moved to Red Rock Canyon State
Park, at the west end of the Mojave Desert. Chosen for its
similarities to a Montana dinosaur dig site, Red Rock played
host to actors Laura Dern and Sam Neill, both of whom were
coached by one of the country's premier paleontologists, Jack
Horner. As a professor at the University of Montana and curator
of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Horner
was a valued member of the crew and the official paleontology
to Stage 27, the Company began a complicated sequence following
a confrontation with the mighty T-rex, who had effortlessly
picked up a Ford Explorer and hung it on the branches of a
gigantic gnarled tree. Rigged by Michael Lantieri's team and
suspended on steel cables, the car slowly slips from branch to
branch until it falls to the ground with a reverberating crash.
By the end of the shoot, the tropical jungle on Stage 27 had
been re-dressed for three additional scenes: an early morning
visit from a Brachiosaurus, a surprise attack on Muldoon (Bob
Peck) and Dennis Nedry's (Wayne Knight) encounter with a Spitter.
28 housed the heart of Jurassic Park; a computer control room
and dinosaur hatchery. Headed up by Michael Backes, computer
effects designer, the Control Room was headquarters for almost a
million dollars in high-end equipment, on loan from such
industry leaders as Silicon Graphics, SuperMac, Apple and
Nedry's sabotage results in Control Room chaos, the audience
will simply watch the display screens in order to understand the
problems that face the park visitors who are on the royal tour.
size and scope, the most memorable "Jurassic Park" set
was perhaps the Visitor's Center constructed on Stage 12, but it
was closely rivaled by the T-rex Paddock, located on one of the
largest sound stages at Warner Brothers Studios. Lantieri and
his crew built the riggings that mobilized the 3000 lb.
dinosaur, who along with his fellow actors, worked long, hard
hours in the wind, rain and mud.
film's climactic finale was filmed on Stage 12, in Jurassic
Park's enormous Rotunda, which, according to the script, is
still under construction. As John Hammond escorts his visitors
into the main lobby, the first thing they see are two gigantic
dinosaur skeletons displayed in the middle of the Rotunda.
by Toronto-based Research Casting International, the
museum-quality pieces are full-size re-creations of a T-rex,
which is approximately 40 feet long, and an Alamosaurus, which
measures 45 feet long.
the cast and crew lifted their glasses in a champagne toast on
the final night of filming, a weary but enthusiastic Spielberg
announced that "Jurassic Park," an ambitious project
which had been two years in the planning and four months before
the cameras, had finished on budget and 12 days ahead of
my opinion, the Jurassic Park series is probably the best
computer enhanced dinosaur stories ever. It is the fourth highest grossing
movie ever (for the time being) and was a motion picture bible
for eight-year-olds across the country. Sadly, it has
never been regarded as artistically superior. When, in reality,
it is one of the most artistically inventive movies ever.
It contains all of Spielberg's magical strokes of genius from
fantastic art direction and wonderful camera techniques to
astounding technical quality. The casting is excellent,
the acting is superb.
camera usage ranges from foreshadowing the appearance of
dinosaurs with extreme up-angles to exquisitely composed scenes
of the dinosaurs' "interaction" with the characters.
Aside from technical quality, Jurassic Park bears powerful
social messages of human intrusion and destruction of the natural
it had an undeniable effect on cinema being one of the first
movies to use CGI at such a large scale. However, the most
ingenious aspect of the film is the portrayal of the dinosaurs
as animals rather than ruthless monsters. At many times
throughout the movie, the humans are shown as antagonists
and the respect and appreciation of the dinosaurs is wonderfully
developed. Whether you analyze the movie or just
sit back and enjoy the ride, it's another brilliant story
providing an excellent return for investors in a movie classic every bit as much
as Jaws or ET.
Trivia: The novel was published in 1990.
However, pre-production of the film began in 1989, using only
Crichton's manuscript. It was widely believed that the book
would be such a hit that it would make an outstanding movie. It
turns out that assumption was correct. (more)